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Craig Thompson (Author and Illustrator)

Publisher: Top Shelf Books

> Review by Carolyn Marcille

At just fewer than six hundred pages, a casual reader may balk at the time commitment necessary to read this graphic memoir. But it is truly excellent, using gorgeously evocative line drawings to tackle the difficulties of being an artistic youth growing up and falling in love for the first time, while throwing in the wrinkle of intense religious devotion. Thompson’s masterful presentation of both the grand and the minutiae drive home this sensitive story, and the sweeping detailed black and white illustrations quickly move you from the heartbreakingly real to the ephemeral and dreamlike. The drawings so tenderly illuminate the story that when Thompson thickens his lines even just a bit, you feel a tangle of emotions akin to how Thompson probably experienced them. The story covers a few decades, so readers are privy to Thompson’s ups and downs, including bullies, guilt, and an overbearing and insensitive father. But you see him start to become a little happier when he meets Raina at church camp; the two start a passionate but mostly chaste relationship that gives Thompson’s existence ballast. Thompson’s renderings of Raina are incredibly delicate, etched with so much love that the reader aches at Raina’s beauty as much Thompson must have. Blankets’ most unusual success comes from its graceful and openhearted handling of the fallout from both religion and young love. It is clear that Thompson’s experience with religion in his formative years unfairly burdens him with undeserved fear, guilt and doubt. Thompson’s sense of self suffers for love of God; in one of the book’s most heartbreaking scenes, he burns all the art of his talented childhood, feeling that he has “wasted his God-given time on escapism...dreaming and drawing, the most secular and selfish of worldly pursuits!” Religion, and the idea of doing what is “right” or expected of a youth by God could easily engender a consuming bitterness. But there is no bitterness in Blankets. The text itself becomes a prayer; a beautiful, living repository of years offered up to the universe as if to say, “I deserve to do the things I want to do, and I deserve to be way I want to be.” It’s clear that Thompson had to lose God to create Art, but the beauty and solace that this book offers suggests that the loss was worth it.

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